‘Advanced’ phones more fault-prone: HK Consumer Council

A day after you got your new smartphone, you are probaby tinkering over its features or enjoying the new-found convenience, whether it’s the augmented reality feature or ease of use as an e-book reading device. But quite understandably, a big percentage of these next generation smartphones are found to be more vulnerable to breakdown compared to traditional mobile phones.

The Consumer Council made the conclusion after it conducted a survey comparing the two sets of phones. While the margin was small — 49 per cent for the more advanced phones and 42 per cent for conventional units — it simply shows that the more we squeeze more features into a sleeker mobile phone package the less stable it becomes. As a matter of fact, if we continue to call it a phone, albeit how smart is it, it won’t do justice to other features such a device is equipped with: GPS, e-Reader, camera and a host of other common capabilities. Shall we use a more appropriate term to describe this collective feature?

Indeed, it’s been a long time since the mobile phone was built, originally intended to make and receive phone calls, then send SMS text and take photos. With more enhancements and technical acronyms, using multiple applications at the same time was inevitable. We can surf the Web and chat via instant messaging service while waiting for a phone call or SMS text. Such multitasking capabilities made phones less stable. While rebooting the phone — shutting down and turning it on — has addressed most issues, complicated issues such as incompatibility between apps and operating system and vulnerability to security threats can’t be solved by pressing the button.

We have, as mobile phone users, fallen into the traps set by manufacturers and got lured by the necessity to grab the latest models in hopes they will address the flaws of previous versions. To some extent they do, like offering more data storage, better coverage or better image quality, but they may also introduce a new set of problems. The falling prices of these smart devices do not help us break the habit as manufacturers release cheaper models and our telecom providers offer us handsets almost for free — as long as we agree to extend our commitment to their data plans.

Ironically, as we spend more time using our phones because of the added features, we might use it less for actual phone calls as newer means of communicating emerged: sending a message through Facebook or instant messaging applications. What’s interesting in the Consumer Council survey is that of the 1,601 people surveyed, users of both smartphones and traditional handsets were similar. The main ones were simple: how to switch phones on and how to make a phone call! This is probably because too many switches were introduced, not to mention the apparently cryptic method of using the touch screen devices and ease of use as a mobile device.

Talking about brands, Sony Ericsson users (39 percent) were most likely troubled with defects. Can I call it Sorry Ericsson? LG has the next highest ratio of users likely to encounter problems (36 percent). Now, you can think of a good meaning of that acronym if you’re a disgruntled user of the brand’s mobile phone.

Apple and Samsung should breathe a sigh of relief as most of their users (Samsung – 80 percent and Apple – 78 percent) reporting no defects with their devices. When it comes to loyalty, Apple’s iPhone users top the leaderboard with 71 percent expressing intention to buy the same brand. Nokia (67 percent) and Sony Ericsson (53 percent) followed the band of users who don’t intend to switch to other brands any time soon.